I will be away this week. If you know New Zealand geography, imagine heading towards the East Cape stopping about 170 kms past Whakatane. My friend Chris and I will be around there somewhere enjoying a total change of scenery, living a laid back lifestyle. That's the plan, anyway. I am re-posting a blog entry from 31 August 2010. Doesn't seem like three years ago. Life is flying by too fast!
The Kai Cooker
Traditional Māori - the indigenous people of New Zealand - believed that the earth was the giver of all life. From the soil, came food and that same food was cooked beneath the earth in ovens called hangi.
Kai is the Māori word for food.
In traditional life, New Zealand's Māori people were hunters, gatherers and crop farmers who harvested their food from the forest, stream, sea and garden. Contemporary New Zealanders still enjoy traditional Māori foods and delicacies, and Māori kai continues to develop.
Hangi actually refers to the method of cooking in the ground with hot stones, to the underground oven itself, and to the food cooked. Various types of meats and vegetables, such as kumara or sweet potato, are wrapped in leaves but a modern hangi is more likely to substitute with aluminium foil and wire baskets.
Putting down a hangi is a time consuming process. Dig the pit for the food, heat the hangi stones for a couple of hours in a roaring fire, dig out the stones and all the ash from the pit, places the heated stones back in the pit. The baskets of food are placed on the hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat around the food.
The food is in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the quantity being cooked.
More and more often these days you see modern technology at work with cookers made that cut out most of the heavy work. My friend Chris' neighbour, turned his creativity to making himself a Kai Cooker. Here he is with his invention. The whole thing was made with bits and pieces he had around the place, the only purchase being a couple of fittings for the gas hot plates he used to apply the heat. The outer layer was actually the surrounds from his childrens' first swimming pool, 30 years ago. He chose his birthday celebration for the "dummy run".
The first time the meat was lifted out the cooks decided it wasn't cooked so back in it went for another hour. A lot easier to do than with the traditional method. The meat was resting on cabbage leaves, the vegetables wrapped in muslin cloths.
The second time everything looked perfect. Johnny's grandson, Jack and I agree.
Then, as the steam rises, it was carve that meat. The lamb was cooked to perfection.
And then .... we all enjoyed the feast. Well done, Johnny.
Thanks for the photos, Chris. I was a bit too engrossed.
Thanks to Ginger who is taking my turn to do the Spotlights and for linking my post to Friday My Town Shoot Out.